DC’s occult detective gets his due
There are worse dark fantasy films than Francis Lawrence’s 2005 adaptation of DC Comics’ long- running Vertigo title Hellblazer. But it’s hard to imagine a more miscast actor than Keanu Reeves in the title role of John Constantine. The ghosts are laid to rest, however, in producer David Goyer’s new take on the supernatural sleuth, which sets off on exactly the right foot with yanked-from- thepages blond, Welsh actor Matt Ryan replacing Reeves in the new 2014 TV model. Ryan has just the right balance of energy and worldweariness to serve as our guide through the spirit world for however long the show runs. ( And if rumours are correct, Warner Brothers will use the show to introduce a host of DC’s other paranormal properties to the screen.)
The pilot, directed by Dog Soldiers’ Neil Marshall, nicely sets up Constantine’s mission against a gathering darkness ( loosely based on his introduction in The Saga Of The Swamp Thing storyline “American Gothic”). It also lays the foundation for Constantine’s quest for redemption, after failing to stop a demon and accidentally damning a young girl to Hell. Fortunately, our hero is granted allies, including Lost’s Harold Perrineau as Manny, the angel assigned to guide him, and Charles Halford as Chas Chandler, Constantine’s oldest friend and driver. The weakest link is Lucy Griffiths as Liv Aberdeen, the wide- eyed girl thrust into this sly stranger’s world. Griffiths does what she can with the material, but she’s a Doctor Who companion fighting to fit into what should be the paranormal TV equivalent of a David Fincher movie. Fortunately, Goyer and his fellow producer Daniel Cerone cottoned onto the problem before audiences did, and, in the second episode, replaced Griffiths’ character with Angélica Celaya’s Zed Martin, Constantine’s street- smart equal, pulled – unlike Liv – directly from the pages of Hellblazer.
Given the other supporting characters already announced for this season – among them voodoo king Papa Midnite and Emmett Scanlan as the Spectre – the future looks suitably dark for the trenchcoat- garbed exorcist. Joseph McCabe
He may no longer smoke, but he’s still got his lighter.